Slavery fled when they fell in the foggy dew

By Karen Zautyk

“As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I

There armed lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by

No pipe did hum, no battle drum did sound its loud tattoo

But the Angelus bell o’er the Liffey’s swell rang out in the foggy dew.”




Above is the opening verse of the song “The Foggy Dew,” which commemorates the 1916 Easter Rising in that “city fair” called Dublin. This coming Sunday   marks the 100th anniversary of the rebellion that set Ireland on the path to eventual independence — at least for the 26 counties outside of Ulster.

As with most things Irish (I’m half a Gael, so I can comment), nothing is simple, even trying to mark a centenary. Easter is a movable feast, its date changing every year. The Rising took place on Easter Monday, which in 1916 was April 24. But in 2016, Easter Monday was March 28. Dublin celebrated the anniversary then. Purists like myself (and the Irish Consulate in New York) will do so on the actual 100-years-later date, this Sunday.

The rebellion lasted less than a week.


Right proudly high over Dublin Town, they hung out the flag of war

‘Twas better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sud-El-Bar

And from the plains of Royal Meath strong men came hurrying through

While Britannia’s Huns, with their long-range guns, sailed in through the foggy dew.


The rebel force, estimated at between 1,200 and 2,000, mustered at locations around central Dublin and hung out the flag of war at what was to be their headquarters, the General Post Office on Sackville St. (now O’Connell St.), where today you can still see the bullet holes in the stone columns.

The British were caught off-guard, and their initial response included an anachronistic cavalry charge down Sackville. (Imagine horsemen led by a sword-wielding commander galloping along Fifth Ave.)  But Britannia’s Huns soon got their act, and their long-range guns, together and wreaked havoc on the city. According to some accounts, 20,000 British troops were called to the battle: 20,000 vs. 1,200.  And the Irish who were killed included civilians whose only crime was residing in Dublin.

The song’s noting of Suvla and Sud-El-Bar referred to sites at Gallipoli, scene of the disastrous 1915 British offensive against the Turks. The massive casualties there included Irishmen who were serving in the British Army during World War I, and Irishmen perished all across the Western Front fighting the Germans.

Which is the reason I have never been able to quite grasp the Irish rebels’ negotiating with Germany. Indeed, the 1916 Rising was to be supported by 20,000 rifles shipped from there to Ireland, but the Royal Navy sank the gun-runner boat. As one recent documentary attempted to explain the disconcerting alliance: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”


Oh the bravest fell, and the Requiem bell rang mournfully and clear

For those who died that Eastertide in the springtime of the year

While the world did gaze, with deep amaze, at those fearless men, but few, Who bore the fight that freedom’s light might shine through the foggy dew.


Rebels died at Eastertide, and afterwards. Following the surrender on April 29, the British rounded up the surviving leaders of the Rising, imprisoned and executed them.  But the world, indeed, did gaze with deep amaze at what had transpired in Eire. While one London newspaper headlined its story “Crazy Rebellion in Ireland,” the New York Times ran in-depth p.1 stories for a full two weeks.

And despite the “failure” of the Rising, freedom’s light did shine forth. It took the War of Independence (1919-21) and a Civil War (1922-23), but the Irish were able to break the centuries-old shackles of British rule. (Except, alas, in Ulster, which led to The Troubles of more recent times.)

In 1915, Padraig Pearse, one of the Rising leaders who would be executed, gave an oration at the grave of another rebel Irishman, O’Donovan Rossa. It concluded with the prescient statement about the British, ” . . . the fools, the fools, the fools! They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”

My apologies for what is a mere hodgepodge outline of what transpired a century ago, but I wanted to acknowledge the centenary in some way. If you are interested in learning more, there are countless websites, and PBS has produced a comprehensive three-part documentary “1916: The Irish Rebellion.” Starting Sunday, Sundance TV is to air a miniseries, “Rebellion.” And opening on

Broadway, for, alas, a limited engagement is a musical “The Bloody Irish,” featuring songs from and about the Rising.

Also, if you’d like to hear what “The Foggy Dew” sounds like, there are various versions on YouTube.

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